Ranker Makes Its Mark on LA, Adding Its Logo to a Mid-Wilshire High Rise

Christian Hetrick

Christian Hetrick is dot.LA's Entertainment Tech Reporter. He was formerly a business reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer and reported on New Jersey politics for the Observer and the Press of Atlantic City.

Ranker Makes Its Mark on LA, Adding Its Logo to a Mid-Wilshire High Rise

Over the last 13 years, Ranker has built a profitable business by crowdsourcing lists and rankings for seemingly everything—from the best fantasy movies of the 1980s to the greatest grapefruit soda brands.

Now, Ranker finds itself on an esoteric list: Companies with their logos plastered atop Los Angeles high-rise buildings. The digital media firm recently placed 7-foot “Ranker” signs on three sides of its headquarters in Mid-Wilshire, in the heart of L.A.

Despite being a high-trafficked site boasting of 30 million unique monthly visitors, Ranker is not a household name. The new signage is part of the company’s push to change that. It’s “the beginning of a concerted effort to take the Ranker brand to the next level,” founder and CEO Clark Benson told dot.LA.

"We got outbid for the Crypto.com Arena naming rights, so we went with plan B,” he joked. “In all seriousness, I am proud of this company and wanted to put the Ranker brand on full display.”

Launched in 2009, Ranker publishes rankings and lists covering pop culture, food, history and more. Visitors to the site can up-vote or down-vote items, producing crowdsourced rankings. In a world full of listicles, Ranker aims to stand apart by offering depth and breadth. Some lists, such as the Most Rewatchable Movies, contain more than 1,000 entries. Others provide a place for geeks to settle niche debates, like the best planets in the Star Wars universe.

Ranker founder and CEO Clark Benson

Ranker founder and CEO Clark Benson

Photo courtesy of Ranker

“You can't answer the best movies of all time in a top 10. That's ridiculous,” Benson said. “So we've always strove for—and I guess it's that completest gene in me—I've always been like, I want to have the definitive ranking across any topic that matters broadly.”

That approach has resonated with Ranker’s users, who stay on the site for 3.2 minutes on average, a company spokesperson said. All told, people have cast more than 1.2 billion votes on Ranker, Benson said. The company, which makes most of its money from advertising, has been profitable since 2016 and generates annual revenue in the “healthy eight figures,” Benson said. It now has 125 employees.

Still, Ranker is trying to evolve into something more than a website to find a new horror series on Netflix or see how others rank U.S. presidents. A few years ago, the company built a video department that now occupies one of its two floors inside the office building at 6421 Wilshire Blvd. Ranker produces web series on YouTube, Snapchat and other platforms that now account for 20% of its business, Benson said.

A more nascent business is Ranker Insights, a data offering aimed at feeding the entertainment industry with information on consumers’ interests. As Ranker visitors vote on multiple lists, the company says it can gain insight on someone’s taste in TV shows or spot correlations between different movies or celebrities (For example, Ranker found a “very strong” correlation between fans of actress Margot Robbie and rockstar Ozzy Osbourne, Benson said). Marketers could hypothetically use the data to find likely audiences for a TV series, he added.

The company is also interested in licensing its rankings, much like how streamers using smart TVs can see a Rotten Tomatoes or IMDB score for a movie. Ranker is “actively working” to be in this space, but hasn’t yet struck a deal, a spokesperson said.

Ranker has been in the Mid-Wilshire building for a decade, but an existing tenant held the signage rights, Benson said. As the company grew, it became the largest tenant and eventually secured the rights when another tenant moved out. The three signs and annual leasing rights cost Ranker more than six figures and it took over a year to get the signs up, though some of that may be blamed on COVID, Benson said.

Ranker is exploring other options to elevate the brand, but declined to share details. “They are still in the ideation phase,” Benson said. “But we consider the building signage a great first step towards that goal.”

Clarification: An earlier version of this post misstated the average engaged time on Ranker's website.

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Two LA Startups Participate in Techstars' 2023 Health Care Accelerator

Decerry Donato

Decerry Donato is a reporter at dot.LA. Prior to that, she was an editorial fellow at the company. Decerry received her bachelor's degree in literary journalism from the University of California, Irvine. She continues to write stories to inform the community about issues or events that take place in the L.A. area. On the weekends, she can be found hiking in the Angeles National forest or sifting through racks at your local thrift store.

Two LA Startups Participate in Techstars' 2023 Health Care Accelerator
Courtesy of Techstars

Earlier this month, Techstars announced that their 2023 accelerator program will have two simultaneous cohorts–Techstars health care and L.A. As previously reported on dot.LA, Techstars has brought on board returning partners Cedars Sinai, United Healthcare, along with new partners that include UCI Health and Point32Health for its health care cohort.

“For our healthcare program, this is the first time we've had multiple partners as sponsors,” Managing Director Matt Kozlov said. “This allows us to support and mentor a wider diversity of companies than we've been able to help historically.”

The in-person program is taking place in Los Angeles and two out of the twelve companies accepted into the health care program are based in Southern California.

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Why Pierced Media Is Betting on Creators To Be The Next Generation of Podcast Stars

Nat Rubio-Licht
Nat Rubio-Licht is a freelance reporter with dot.LA. They previously worked at Protocol writing the Source Code newsletter and at the L.A. Business Journal covering tech and aerospace. They can be reached at nat@dot.la.
Why Pierced Media Is Betting on Creators To Be The Next Generation of Podcast Stars
Evan Xie

It’s no secret that men dominate the podcasting industry. Even as women continue to grow their foothold, men still make up many of the highest-earning podcasts, raking in massive paychecks from ad revenue and striking deals with streaming platforms worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

But a new demographic is changing that narrative: Gen-Z female influencers and content creators.

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NASA’s JPL Receives Billions to Begin Understanding Our Solar System

Samson Amore

Samson Amore is a reporter for dot.LA. He holds a degree in journalism from Emerson College and previously covered technology and entertainment for TheWrap and reported on the SoCal startup scene for the Los Angeles Business Journal. Send tips or pitches to samsonamore@dot.la and find him on Twitter @Samsonamore.

NASA’s JPL Receives Billions to Begin Understanding Our Solar System
Evan Xie

NASA’s footprint in California is growing as the agency prepares for Congress to approve its proposed 2024 budget.

The overall NASA budget swelled 6% from the prior year, JPL deputy director Larry James told dot.LA. He added he sees that as a continuation of the last two presidential administrations’ focus on modernizing and bolstering the nation’s space program.

The money goes largely to existing NASA centers in California, including the Pasadena-based Jet Propulsion Laboratory run with Caltech, Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley and Armstrong Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base.

California remains a hotspot for NASA space activity and investment. In 2021, the agency estimated its economic output impact on the region to be around $15.2 billion. That was far more than its closest competing states, including Texas ($9.3 billion) and Maryland (roughly $8 billion). That same year, NASA reported it employed over 66,000 people in California.

“In general, Congress has been very supportive” of the JPL and NASA’s missions, James said. “It’s generally bipartisan [and] supported by both sides of the aisle. In the last few years in general NASA has been able to have increased budgets.”

There are 41 current missions run by JPL and CalTech, and another 16 scheduled for the future. James added the new budget is “an incredible support for all the missions we want to do.”

The public-private partnership between NASA and local space companies continues to evolve, and the increased budget could be a boon for LA-based developers. Numerous contractors for NASA (including CalTech, which runs the JPL), Boeing, Lockheed Martin, SpaceX and Northrop Grumman all stand to gain new contracts once the budget is finalized, partly because NASA simply needs the private industry’s help to achieve all its goals.

James said that there was only one JPL mission that wasn’t funded – a mission to send an orbital satellite to survey the surface and interior of Venus, called VERITAS.

NASA Employment and Output ImpactEvan Xie

The Moon and Mars

Much of the money earmarked in the proposed 2024 budget is for crewed missions. Overall, NASA’s asking for $8 billion from Congress to fund lunar exploration missions. As part of this, the majority is earmarked for the upcoming Artemis mission, which aims to land a woman and person of color on the Moon’s south pole.

While there’s a number of high-profile missions the JPL is working on that are focused on Mars, including Mars Sample Return project (which received $949 million in this proposed budget) and Ingenuity helicopter and Perseverance rover, JPL also received significant funding to study the Earth’s climate and behavior.

JPL also got funding for several projects to map our universe. One is the SphereX Near Earth Objects surveyor mission, the goal of which is to use telescopes to “map the entire universe,” James said, adding that the mission was fully funded.

International Space Station

NASA’s also asking for more money to maintain the International Space Station (ISS), which houses a number of projects dedicated to better understanding the Earth’s climate and behavior.

The agency requested roughly $1.3 billion to maintain the ISS. It also is increasing its investment in space flight support, in-space transportation and commercial development of low-earth orbit (LEO). “The ISS is an incredible platform for us,” James said.

James added there are multiple missions outside or on board the ISS now taking data, including EMIT, which launched in July 2022. The EMIT mission studies arid dust sources on the planet using spectroscopy. It uses that data to remodel how mineral dust movement in North and South America might affect the Earth’s temperature changes.

Another ISS mission JPL launched is called ECOSTRESS. The mission sent a thermal radiometer onto the space station in June 2018 to monitor how plants lose water through their leaves, with the goal of figuring out how the terrestrial biosphere reacts to changes in water availability. James said the plan is to “tell you the kind of foliage health around the globe” from space.

One other ISS project is called Cold Atom Lab. It is “an incredible fundamental physics machine,” James said, that’s run by “three Nobel Prize winners as principal investigators on the Space Station.” Cold Atom Lab is a physics experiment geared toward figuring out how quantum phenomena behave in space by cooling atoms with lasers to just below absolute zero degrees.

In the long term, James was optimistic NASA’s imaging projects could lead to more dramatic discoveries. Surveying the makeup of planets’ atmospheres is a project “in the astrophysics domain we’re very excited about,” James said. He added that this imaging could lead to information about life on other planets, or, at the very least, an understanding of why they’re no longer habitable.